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December 07, 2011 8:45 AM Bill addressing imaginary threat advances in House

By Steve Benen

There are plenty of actual, real-world problems Congress can and should be working on right now. Unfortunately, House Republicans have decided to invest time in imaginary problems.

The U.S. House of Representatives is expected to consider a bill by Rep. Kristi Noem, R-S.D., to prohibit the Environmental Protection Agency from further regulating rural dust.

The Farm Dust Prevention Act of 2011 passed the House Energy and Commerce Committee on a 33-16 vote.

The bill would exclude farm dust that is regulated at the state or local level from federal standards.

The point of the House legislation is to restrict the EPA’s ability “to regulate naturally occurring dust,” and in GOP circles, this has become a fairly big deal. House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) recently vowed to “stop excessive federal regulations” of farm dust; House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) said one of the top goals of his caucus is “overturning the EPA’s proposed regulations” on farm dust; Mitt Romney has gotten in on the game; and it even came up in a recent debate for presidential candidates.

There’s just one small problem: Republicans made this up. They’re working on a bill to stop a “proposed regulation” that hasn’t, in reality, been proposed. As Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) tried to explain to his collegaues, “We might as well tell EPA not to regulate fairy dust.”

As Tim Noah explained this week, “It’s political bullshit. There is no pending farm-dust regulation. What there is, is an attempt by Republicans to persuade everybody that there is a pending farm-dust regulation so they can pass a new law exempting the agricultural industry … from an existing clean-air regulation that hardly ever affects farms (but, when it does, addresses a legitimate health issue).”

In fact, it’s not just the House. A related bill is pending in the Senate, and it has 26 co-sponsors — including two Democrats whose constituents have been convinced that the threat is real and are demanding action.

A vote on the House floor may come as early as tomorrow.

I’m beginning to think Congress’ 9% approval rating is far too high.

Steve Benen is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly, joining the publication in August, 2008 as chief blogger for the Washington Monthly blog, Political Animal.

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  • c u n d gulag on December 07, 2011 8:49 AM:

    "I’m beginning to think Congress’ 9% approval rating is far too high."

    Yes, but to go any lower, nearly ALL of the Congress' family members have to say that they disapprove of them when they're polled.

  • Kathryn on December 07, 2011 9:00 AM:

    Which two Democrats co-sponsored this joke, does anybody know? Unless and until senators and congressmen tell their hysterical misinformed constituents the truth, this FOX drummed up nonsense will continue. No hope for the Republicans who run on lies, rumors and bullshit. My money is on Ben Nelson and Jon Tester playing along with them.

    Excellent letter to the editor in NYT today regarding congress, compromise and the people that addresses the subject of false equivalency, a satisfying clearly written letter from a gentle men from Princeton, N.J.

  • Tom Marney on December 07, 2011 9:14 AM:

    Farm dust is likely more of an occupational health issue than an environmental one and thus would be more likely to fall under OSHA's jurisdiction, lol.

  • PadrePio on December 07, 2011 9:46 AM:

    I just got off of the phone with Kristi Noem's office and I pointed out that the EPA does not regulate farm dust and was told that the EPA doesn't regulate it now but this legislation is being introduced to prevent them from ever regulating farm dust. How batshit crazy is this?

  • TeaBagger HankJr. on December 07, 2011 10:13 AM:

    As with gun control, the fairness doctrine, etc., Obama in his first term has shrewdly ignored the left's incessant cries for farm dust regulation. We all know Obama will govern farmer's with a heavy hand if he gets a second term, which is why Republicans are acting extremely wise to pass this legislation now.

  • TheOtherJim on December 07, 2011 10:16 AM:

    It's a trap. Somebody has plans to do something which will result in pollution that would be regulated under the current EPA regulations, and this bill -- under the guys of preventing something silly, like the regulation of 'farm dust' -- will permit it. Anybody remember fracking? As in "Exempt from clean water regulations" fracking?

  • TheOtherJim on December 07, 2011 10:17 AM:

    Ow. Typo. "under the guys" should be "under the guise."

  • ahoy polloi on December 07, 2011 10:20 AM:

    the fact is, dust IS a major health issue in the southwest US states. otherwise known as particulate matter, dust will often be accompanied by other toxic materials like heavy metals with adhere to the dust and then pass into the lungs of anyone unlucky enough to breathe it.

    i think theOtherJim is right: this could be a bill to head off any future regulation on soil erosion/conservation in a larger climate bill.

  • jdb on December 07, 2011 11:00 AM:

    GOP whips McCarthy and Roskam have a piece in National Journal Online regarding this. Note that they describe the bill as 'imposed,' referring to it as the 'Administration�s imposed Farm Dust rule.'

    http://www.nationalreview.com/corner/285123/reining-regs-kevin-mccarthy

  • Anonymous on December 07, 2011 12:12 PM:

    It is about much more than "farm dust" unless you consider any mining activity "farming. From Politico:

    The bill goes beyond its commonly stated farm dust mission to exempt a variety of situations from Clean Air Act authority, including dust emissions from open-pit mining, Shimkus said. “I’m here for my open-pit mines in Illinois, that we don’t shut them down. … For us, it’s about jobs and an overzealous EPA,” he said.
    http://dyn.politico.comprintstory.cfm?uuid=19DC3C13-3B0E-427D-8C35-B814F5A93704

  • exlibra on December 07, 2011 12:38 PM:

    They should also include the waiver for driving licenses for tractors, while they're at it. I know they'd tried before and failed, but, sometimes, persistence pays off.

    Otherwise, I agree with the commenters above who say there's more to it, hiding behind the apparent bit of silliness.

  • Anonymous on December 07, 2011 2:19 PM:

    Democrats should take a cue from this and pass their own laws to prevent things too crazy to contemplate, even for Republicans. You know, "preventing" such wacky, nonexistent laws as:

    - Requiring photo ID from citizens trying to vote

    - Making teachers teach creationism in public school

    - Forcing a doctor about to terminate a pregnancy to deliver a spiel of B.S. to the woman about how dangerous an abortion is

    - (Oooh, here's a good one-- my imagination's running wild here) Forcing the woman seeking to terminate a pregnancy to look at an ultrasound of the fetus

    You know, whack-a-doo stuff like that.

  • Doug on December 07, 2011 8:58 PM:

    Talk about legislation "preventing EPA from regulating farm dust", include exemptions for open-pit mining, smelting, etc.
    Pea, meet shell.

    Are ALL Republicans con-men/women?

  • LA-CC on December 08, 2011 12:47 AM:

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